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If you’re sitting in a room with four other people, statistically speaking, one person in the room will have some sort of mental illness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a study in 2014 that estimated one in five Americans suffer from some sort of mental illness every year.
The term mental illness has a broad definition that covers a wide range of different conditions. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and autism are some of the most common mental illnesses.
Sadly the nation’s attention to the mental health problem has been less than impressive. From 2005 to 2010 the number of spots available in state psychiatric hospitals has actually decreased by 14 percent. This downsizing is part of a movement that started many years ago to provide more humane treatment for the mentally ill.
While this movement truly had the best intentions, it did have some unintended consequences. One consequence of this movement is that now a large number of mentally ill people end up in jail or homeless.
Despite the shrinking number of state mental health facilities, the government does offer other forms of help for Americans who suffer from mental illnesses. The Social Security Administration offers disability benefits for mental illness.
Getting benefits for mental illness is not as easy as getting benefits for a physical disability, but it is possible. When applying for social security benefits for mental illness, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
• Having a diagnosis alone will not suffice
• Approval is determined upon severity
• Claims for disability based on mental health are very difficult to win
In order to qualify for social security benefits due to a mental illness you must be diagnosed with a condition that is listed in the SSA’s book of recognized disabilities. This book is referred to as the “blue book” and it lists all of the conditions SSA feels disables a person severely enough to prevent them from working, or at least working enough to qualify for substantial gainful activity.
Depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders, mental retardation, autistic disorders, anxiety, and bipolar disorder all make the SSA’s list of qualifying disabilities.
This book also outlines how severe the symptoms of the condition must be in order for you to qualify for benefits.
There is an option if your condition is not listed in the book or is not considered severe enough. The SSA can award you even if your disability still prevents you from working. You must prove three things to the SSA in order to qualify, but this doesn’t guarantee you’ll get approved.
1. You’ve been medically diagnosed with a mental illness
2. This illness is preventing you from working
3. This illness has lasted or is expected to last for a minimum of 12 months
The SSA will also look at your residual functional capacity (RFC) if you don’t meet the qualifications as outlined in the blue book. The mental RFC is a measurement of four mental capacities: memory, social interaction, concentration, and adaptation.
Memory- The SSA will test your ability to remember and follow simple instructions. If you are markedly limited in remembering simple instructions you will be considered unable to perform unskilled work.
Social Interaction- As most jobs will require you to interact with other people, the SSA will want to make sure you can handle the social stresses of a work environment. Asking for help, taking constructive criticism, and even maintaining workplace appropriate personal hygiene will be measured in this area.
Concentration- Your ability to focus and concentrate long enough to complete basic workplace tasks will also be assessed. The three main components of this area are concentration, persistence, and pace.
Adaptation- Most workplaces are constantly changing. New supervisors, new co-workers, and new duties are always being thrown into the mix. This is why the SSA will measure your ability to adapt to changes in environment and pressures.
Depending on your age, job skills, education level, and mental limitations you might qualify for this mental-vocational allowance if your condition causes significant limitations in these areas of work-related activities.
This isn’t just limited to the job industry you had before you became disabled. The SSA will consider any job possible, including unskilled labor. This means you will be denied if you were an accountant and cannot do accounting anymore because of your disability, but can still perform unskilled work.
Reasons for Getting Denied
1. One of the biggest reasons claims are denied is because the disability examiners are not trained psychiatrists and therefore do not have the skills needed to properly assess mental illnesses. This is why it’s so important to have proper and convincing documentation.
2. Often the notes of mental health professionals are unorganized and not very detailed. Getting good notes from your doctor on any mental health treatment you received will greatly help your case.
3. If the examiner thinks your condition hasn’t lasted a year or doesn’t expect it last a year your claim will be denied. This can be especially hard to overcome for people with bipolar disorder, because symptoms can come and go.
4. Lots of people try to apply for benefits without receiving any true treatment. A family doctor prescribing anti-depressants doesn’t count as getting treatment.
5. Not taking prescribed medication is another common reason for denial. If this is noted in your treatment records it’s going to be a huge red flag. The SSA wants to make a judgment based on your true limitations, and if you’re not taking medication or treating consistently that can prevent or remove some of your limitations the SSA cannot make a proper judgment.
Getting approved for social security benefits for mental illness is one of the hardest disability benefits to get approved for. If you’re going through the process alone it’s next to impossible. Jan Dils Attorneys at Law has the experience and expertise needed to get their clients approved for social security benefits for mental illness.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law